Social Security is more than just a retirement program. It provides important life insurance and disability insurance protection as well.

Over 64 million people, or more than 1 in every 6 U.S. residents, collected Social Security benefits in June 2020. While older Americans make up about 4 in 5 beneficiaries, another one-fifth of beneficiaries received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or were young survivors of deceased workers.

In addition to Social Security's retirement benefits, workers earn life insurance and SSDI protection by making Social Security payroll tax contributions:

  • About 96 percent of people aged 20-49 who worked in jobs covered by Social Security in 2019 have earned life insurance protection through Social Security.
  • For a young worker with average earnings, a spouse, and two children, that's equivalent to a life insurance policy with a face value of over $725,000 in 2018, according to Social Security's actuaries.
  • About 89 percent of people aged 21-64 who worked in covered employment in 2019 are insured through Social Security in case of severe disability.

The risk of disability or premature death is greater than many realize. Some 6 percent of recent entrants to the labor force will die before reaching the full retirement age, and many more will become disabled from being able to perform full-time work